Integrated systems and mission study results are presented which quantify the rationale and benefits for developing and using nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) technology for returning humans to the moon in the early 2000's. At present, the Exploration Program Office (ExPO) is considering chemical propulsion for its 'First Lunar Outpost' (FLO) mission, and NTR propulsion for the more demanding Mars missions to follow. The use of an NTR-based lunar transfer stage, capable of evolving to Mars mission applications, could result in an accelerated schedule, reduced cost approach to moon/Mars exploration. Lunar mission applications would also provide valuable operational experience and serve as a 'proving ground' for NTR engine and stage technologies. In terms of performance benefits, studies indicate that an expendable NTR stage powered by two 50 klbf engines can deliver approximately 96 metric tons (t) to trans-lunar injection (TLI) conditions for an initial mass in low earth orbit (IMLEO) of approximately 199 t compared to 250 t for a cryogenic chemical TLI stage. The NTR stage liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank has a 10 m diameter, 14.8 m length, and 68 t LH2 capacity. The NTR utilizes a 'graphite' fuel form consisting of coated UC2 particles in a graphite substrate, and has a specific impulse capability of approximately 870 s, and an engine thrust-to-weight ratio of approximately 4.8. The NTR stage and its piloted FLO lander has a total length of approximately 38 m and can be launched by a single Saturn V-derived heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV) in the 200 to 250 t-class range. The paper summarizes NASA's First Lunar Outpost scenario, describes characteristics for representative engine/stage configurations, and examines the impact on engine selection and vehicle design resulting from a consideration of alternative NTR fuel forms and lunar mission profiles.